It’s a seemingly simple, almost innocuous question, but it’s one that few credit unions have answered effectively:  What makes you different from the other choices that consumers have in the financial services market space?

Think about it.

No doubt you can quickly come up with a list of businesses that you frequently patronize and identify what it is that makes you go there.  Chances are things like price, service, selection, location, and people would top your list as the reasons you return.

If we probed a little deeper and asked about the other choices–the businesses you do not patronize–we would learn a bit more about what makes the places you do frequent different from those that you do not.  From the conversation, we would be able to readily identify what really matters to you and we would learn what you see as the differences that each of these businesses delivers for you.

And therein lies the secret to defining a successful long-term strategy for your credit union.  Learn what your members see as your difference, leverage that difference and make it your true competitive advantage.  Then focus on doing that thing better than anyone else and letting prospective members know that if that is what they want, then they need to join your credit union; and be comfortable knowing that if they want something else, then they can go somewhere else.

Remember:  Trying to be all things to all people has never worked for any business (and never will).

Southwest has low fares, The Ritz Carlton has unbeatable service, and Walmart has low prices.  What does your credit union have?

ACTION ADVICE: Engage your members in a conversation about what they see as the difference your credit union brings to the financial services market.  In other words, ask them why they use your credit union for the products and services they use it for, and why they do not use it for other products and services you offer.  Make a commitment to really understand how your brand and your business are seen through the eyes of your members.  Then get serious about dropping the products and services that are not differentiating you and reallocating resources to do the things you do best even better.  That will create a definable difference and position your credit union for long-term success!